Stability is not a word often associated with the head coaching position of an NFL franchise. In fact, it's more of an antonym. Since 2007, 20 of the 32 NFL teams have changed head coaches. Nine teams changed their head coach in 2009 alone.
And then there are the two coaches facing off this weekend in Nashville. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher was hired midway through the 1994 season. He replaced Jack Pardee, who resigned after starting the 1994 season 1-9. Fisher's 17 years in Tennessee make him the longest tenured coach in the NFL.
Right behind Fisher is Eagles head coach Andy Reid, who was hired in 1999 and is coaching his 12th season in Philadelphia. Fisher and Reid are two of only 11 coaches in NFL history to last 12 or more years with their first team, and both have their own strategy for keeping their message fresh after more than a decade with the same team.
"Well I think Jeff will tell you, you have to be yourself when you're with the players and you have to be honest," Reid said. "I think that's important with the players and with the coaches because we have a few coaches that have been here for a while. So you make sure that you shoot them straight."
Fisher explained that, "the turnover on the roster allows that to happen. (The Eagles) certainly have more first-year players than we do, but we've got a handful of them and every year there is turn over. Three or four years down the line, you're going to have a whole new team. I think that helps.
"I think each year we have a responsibility as coaches to learn, to grow, to study, to do more, and to look at things differently," Fisher continued. "Our team is different every year, and we have to adjust to the roster changes and the differences from one year to the next.""
When a coach's message goes stale, the pink slip is often not far behind. That's the greatest challenge for a long-tenured head coach, like Fisher and Reid. They don't want to change the very coaching tactics that got them hired in the first place, but delivering the same message continuously will eventually render it useless. It's an awfully delicate balance, but one that Eagles players think Reid has mastered.
"Coach Reid's a good coach," said guard Todd Herremans. "He understands what his players need to hear and what they don't need to hear, and he's upfront with us about pretty much everything, so I think that keeps it fresh."
Cornerback Ellis Hobbs has spent his career with two of the most successful franchises in recent NFL history. The New England Patriots have won 130 games since 2000, including playoffs, the most in the NFL. Just two spots behind are the Philadelphia Eagles, having won 117 games in the last 11 years. While a member of the Patriots, Hobbs was convinced that the "Bill Belichick style" was the only way to find success. He has since learned otherwise.
"When I was in New England, I always thought there was one way to win," Hobbs said. "You know, rule by a hard hand. But Andy really makes you feel, literally, like a part of a team. He treats the players with respect. Not to say they didn't in New England, but just on harsher terms."
At the end of the day, the players themselves need to make plays in order to win football games. But having such a strong and stable presence at head coach goes a long way towards the continuous success that every NFL team aspires for.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 11:30 a.m., October 21